Diane Jackier, LPC’s director of community and governmental affairs, said that the her
agency was originally formed to save Grand Central Terminal from the wrecking ball. On staff
presently are 11 commissioners and 45 full-time employees, including three architects, a
realtor, a landscape architect, lawyers, a historian and other "experts."
About 3 percent of all property in the city is landmarked, Jackier said. A landmark can be
many different things: an edifice, like the Ridgewood Savings Bank at 107-55 Queens
Boulevard; an interior space, like the Woolworth Building’s lobby; a natural scene, such
as Central Park; or a district, such as Ridgewood’s Stockholm Street.
"We feel that Sunnyside Gardens might warrant landmark status," said Jackier.
LPC Director of Research Mary Beth Betts added that the neighborhood is unique because it’s one of the few planned "garden cities" that have been able to stay true to its calling. The original architecture, urban space and social mission are still mostly in tact.
"Sunnyside Gardens is one of New York City’s most significant planned communities and even one of the best throughout the United States," she said.
Betts then described the landmarking process. First an LPC senior staffer examines the site
to see if it’s appropriate according to guidelines. (Sunnyside Gardens has already met
this requirement, she said.)
The next step involves the LPC Designation Committee, which determines the site’s boundaries. After this, the potential landmark district is set and cannot be changed.
The next action is a public hearing, which is promoted in the City Record and on the LPC website, www.nyc.gov/landmarks. Notices are also sent out to elected officials.
Next, a report is prepared in which the case for landmarking is made based on architectural
and historical criteria. This report contains an entry on each structure which the owners may
Betts said that Sunnyside Gardens has 562 buildings and and each one’s history and
architecture would be studied and described. The main area of consideration encompasses
the brick homes bounded mostly by 43rd and 48th Streets and Skillman and 39th Avenues.
After the hearing, LPC commissioners vote. If they approve it, the proposal goes to the
NYC Planning Commission and then the City Council for final approval.
Sarah Carroll, LPC’s deputy director of preservation, said that her agency does not
regulate ordinary repairs and maintenance. However, all exterior work requires LPC approval.
Agency permits include staff level permits for small jobs and repairs and full LPC reviews
for major modifications.
Deputy Counsel Weiss said that LPC takes enforcement seriously. If a homeowner does
something without LPC approval, a warning letter is issued-about 1,000 such missives are sent
If the incompliance continues, Weiss said LPC issues the homeowner a notice of violation and
even a stop-work order. For big problems, fines reach $5,000, and lawsuits are brought to NYS
The premise of these actions is to protect the properties and to insure they are taken care of by the owner.
But Weiss added that LPC is not very intrusive. "We don’t regulate if you want to paint a kitchen, sell or rent out the house, or put an air conditioner through a window," he said.
As announced, the benefits of landmarking included the following:
•An independent study of historic and non-historic districts by the NYC Budget Office found that landmarking improves real estate values by 5 to 21 percent.
•LPC lobbies in Albany for state tax credits for historic districts.
•LPC staff are always available and are very helpful to property owners.
•All future changes in structures will be regulated.
•There are currently no fees for applying for a permit from the LPC. (Presently a proposal is
afoot to charge a modest fee.)
One meeting attendee asked what would happen to the illegal driveways that many individuals
have if Sunnyside Gardens is landmarked.
Weiss responded that existing problems are "grandfathered" and not punished. But
a driveway will lose its "grandfather exemption" if the owner changes it after
An individual asked about landscaping and trees if the district is landmarked. Carroll
responded that LPC does not regulate planting. "We look at changes that might affect
greenery, but we do not regulate plantings," he said.
A meeting attendee asked how Sunnyside Gardens Community Park would be affected by
landmarking. Carroll responded that LPC would look at the local park’s paving, layout and
fencing. Betts added that if the park is in the historic district and someone wants to
develop it, he/she would have to get LPC approval.
Many asked about renovation work, wanting to know if they would have to stick with the
original material or if they could use more modern items to install a new roof or door.
Carroll responded that people must consider security. If one wanted to change from a wooden
door to a metal door, it could be done if the metal door replicated the historic design. If
one wanted outdoor lighting, the fixtures would have to have the historic design.
There was another question about the legality of dormers. The answer was that alterations
on the primary façade will require full commission review. On a secondary
façade, such as in back, there is some flexibility. Dormer repairs are okay without